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Official data show impact of Costa Rica’s border restrictions

April 29, 2020

Data provided Wednesday by the Public Security Ministry demonstrate the impact Costa Rica’s border restrictions have had during the coronavirus crisis.

Since March 19, when Costa Rica began banning entry to tourists and most non-resident foreigners, just 22,405 people have legally entered the country, according to Public Security Minister Michael Soto.

That figure is particularly striking when compared to last year. For instance, on April 21, 2019, more than 23,000 people legally entered Costa Rica. On April 21, 2020, the country received just 410 people.

A graph compares daily arrivals to Costa Rica over the same period in 2019 (red) and 2020 (blue).
A graph compares daily arrivals to Costa Rica over the same period in 2019 (red) and 2020 (blue). Via MSP.

“[This] shows what was normal for arrivals to the country for this period: about 13,000 or 14,000 people entering the country [each day],” Soto said. “There is a considerable drop since March 19, when we established the restrictive measures.”

A graph showing daily arrivals to Costa Rica since border restrictions began on March 19.
A graph showing daily arrivals to Costa Rica since border restrictions began on March 19. Via MSP.

Similarly, 67,152 people have left Costa Rica since March 19 — more than a third of those by March 21. In the most extreme comparison, 22,263 people departed Costa Rica on April 13, 2019, and just 415 people left the country on the same day this year.

“Many people of diverse nationalities decided to leave rapidly, as you can see in the graph,” Soto said. “Over this period, the amount of people leaving is a lot less than normal.”

A graph showing daily departures from Costa Rica since border restrictions began on March 19.
A graph showing daily departures from Costa Rica since border restrictions began on March 19. Via MSP.

Most airlines began suspending or limiting flights to Costa Rica in late March after the country declared a Sate of Emergency due to COVID-19. United Airlines will resume limited commercial service between the United States and Costa Rica in early May; several international carriers don’t plan to fly to Costa Rica until July or later.

Costa Rica isn’t allowing non-resident foreigners to enter the country until at least May 15.

The coronavirus crisis has had a significant impact on the country’s economy. The Central Bank projects Costa Rica’s gross domestic product (GDP) will decrease by 3.6% in 2020 due to the pandemic.

All branches of economic activity have been hit by the crisis, but the tourism sector, which comprises an estimated 8.2% of Costa Rica’s GDP, has been particularly affected.

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